II Kings 1:
1 After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel.
2 Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness.”
3 But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?
4 Now therefore thus says the LORD, You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” So Elijah went.
The opening of 2 Kings is a stauch reminder of the king’s duties in ensuring the peace with neighbouring countries. Under the reign of David and Solomon, Israel was reaching a golden era of peace. However, under Ahab’s rule, his house was cursed like that of Jeroboam and Baasha. Upon his death, the incestuous sister country Moab (c.f. Genesis 19) decides to rebel against Israel (v.1) – undoubtedly reminding us that the king has been unfaithful to the LORD, and the very fact of Moab’s rebellion is a pretext for Ahaziah’s curse in this chapter.
Ahaziah is much like his father’s image – but where Ahab acknowledged the LORD and was humbled by Him (1 Kings 21:27-29), Ahaziah not only ignored the LORD but instead opts to inquire of “Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron”. This is the same as Beelzebub in Matthew 10:25, the “lord of the flies” – flies having a negative connotation akin to the curse in Exodus 8. Ahaziah, rather than inquiring of the God in Israel, decides to inquire the god of the Philistines (v.3). This pronouncement of the curse by the Angel of the LORD, Jesus, is early on in v.4 – a curse on the head and king of Israel by the prophet and man of God. Like Ahab and Jezebel, so Ahaziah is the typical Adam, the cursed head. Instead of enabling Israel to fulfill its calling as a priesthood to all nations (Exodus 19:6), it is now undistinguished to its neighbours. He is not the true king of Israel – but is rather the self-proclaimed king of Samaria, far away from Moriah, the place of Christ’s redemptive work (c.f. Genesis 22).
Instead, the deliberate comparison is that this king of Israel is contrasted to the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, who had insisted on inquiring of the LORD at the end of 1 Kings. Here, instead, Ahaziah is insistent on inquiring of Baal-zebub: the irony that is Ahaziah living out the character of Moab. Though in the ‘family’, born not out of holiness but out of sin. Ahaziah is but a ‘legal’ Israelite, but bears not the Spirit of God in living as the true Israelite. The lamp of Jerusalem, emphasizing on the lamp to David and his sons which remains with Judah.
5 The messengers returned to the king, and he said to them, “Why have you returned?”
6 And they said to him, “There came a man to meet us, and said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, Thus says the LORD, Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’”
7 He said to them, “What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?”
8 They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
Here, Elijah the Baptist (c.f. Matthew 3:4) again is clearing the road for the true king. Ahaziah, like Ahab, inquired of other gods. Elijah’s role as prophet is to bring in the true king Jesus Christ (1 Samuel 2:10, 12:12) just as the judges and Samuel preceded the need for a Saul or David. Here, there is a direct conflict between the ‘messengers of Baal-zebub’ (including the king Ahaziah, and his messengers and captains and their men) and the messenger of the LORD Elijah.
9 Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty men with his fifty. He went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’”
10 But Elijah answered the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.
11 Again the king sent to him another captain of fifty men with his fifty. And he answered and said to him, “O man of God, this is the king’s order, ‘Come down quickly!’”
12 But Elijah answered them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.
Note here the imagery – Elijah sits at the top of a hill, a biblical indication of heaven (Psalm 24:3, 44:3). So we see Christ speaking through his messenger Elijah (as a type of Christ), to 2 sets of captains and their fifty men at the bottom of the hill. This is a reminder of the time in the wilderness when the men were afraid to approach Mount Sinai and had to commission Moses to go. There is nothing special about Moses – all the men, though ‘quarantined’ from breaking in to meet the Father, however were also invited into receiving the Father personally, rather than Moses himself (Exodus 20:18-21).
However, these captains and men did not seek to revere the LORD of Elijah. In contrast, they asked Elijah to come down from the hill – mockingly using the title “man of God” whilst disbelieving the “God” of this man. What they receive, instead of the warm embrace of the Father, is the wrath otherwise poured onto the Holy Son on their behalf. This is but a foretelling of the events in Revelation – the ridicule of Christ leading to fiery destruction from the heavens (2 Peter 3:7-12).
Note the number fifty – the number of final deliverance (c.f. Jubilee – Leviticus 25) which concords with the imagery of Revelation and of Elijah on the top of the hill. The first two sets (the two captains, and their respective fifty men – 102 men killed by the fire, two-thirds of the men sent by Ahaziah). This is but a shadow of judgment in Christ’s ‘descension’, in the parousia – two thirds destroyed but one third spared, the ‘thirds’ being an important pattern of division in Scripture (Ezekiel 5:2-12; Revelation 8-9) – the man of God goes down the hill to be with the third captain. This is because the man recognizes truly this ‘man of God’ is neither mere man nor an object of mockery.
13 Again the king sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up and came and fell on his knees before Elijah and entreated him, “O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight.
14 Behold, fire came down from heaven and consumed the two former captains of fifty men with their fifties, but now let my life be precious in your sight.”
15 Then the angel of the LORD said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So he arose and went down with him to the king
16 and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron—is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word?—therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’”
What is often omitted from 2 Kings 1 (v.15), let alone a portrayal of Elijah’s biography, is Elijah’s fear. This creates a collective image of a prophet who has a tendency to fear man (1 Kings 19:3, 19:18). Yet, Elijah’s weakness is supplanted by the LORD’s strength (2 Corinthians 12:9), a truly cruciform lifestyle (2 Corinthians 13:4) as he beheld the Angel of the LORD Who was with him at the top of the hill.
The captain and the third fifty were therefore spared – but the king died in fulfillment of Elijah’s word. This scenario is again reflected in the New Testament (Matthew 8:5-13), the faithful centurion contrasted against the faithless master of the centurion (Matthew 23:11). In fact, the message had been clear since v.6-8. The king could have gone out himself and pleaded with Elijah; instead, 102 men were murdered, and the only one spared in this chapter is the captain and his fifty humbled before Elijah, recognizing the LORD’s work in His prototypical judgment on the Day of Resurrection. Though the king had the murderous intent (v.15 – do not be afraid of him), Elijah was the one who had the ‘last word’.
Although Ahaziah had no son, Jehoram his brother (and also son of Ahab and Jezebel) replaced him (v.17). It is ironic that both kings’ name means “whom Jehovah has exalted”. Neither the Jehoram of Judah (2 Chronicles 21-22) nor the Jehoram of Israel were fitting of this name. This is therefore the way 2 Kings 1 opens – not by displaying the righteousness of men, but rather than the righteousness of the Angel of the LORD who brought judgment on all those against His anointed prophet.
17 So he died according to the word of the LORD that Elijah had spoken. Jehoram became king in his place in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, because Ahaziah had no son.
18 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?
II Kings 2:
1 Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.
2 And Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
3 And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take away your master from over you?” And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
By way of how 2 Kings 1 ended, the narrator of 2 Kings 2 brings us back to the beginning – taking Elijah and Elisha through landmarks explored before the Israelites even entered Canaan. From Gilgal to Bethel, Elijah and Elisha are brought to remember the reproach of Israel removed (Joshua 5:9), insodoing bringing the Israelites back to the house of God (Genesis 28, 35). Like Enoch, the seventh in generation from Adam, Elijah is to be caught up into the Lord’s presence (Genesis 5:24); however, the method by whirlwind is unprecedented in the recording of the Word. What is important is that the sons of the prophets’ knowledge of Elijah’s removal (and so reminded Elisha) is a foretelling of the Son of God ascending the ladder to third heaven (Genesis 28:12); the Son of God no longer ‘with’ His disciples, so also Elijah no longer with Elisha – the type of Christ and the type of the Church. The giving of the Spirit resting on Elijah to Elisha, so also the giving of the Spirit resting on Christ (Isaiah 11:2), given to all flesh (Joel 2:28).
4 Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho.
5 The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take away your master from over you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
So while the sons of the prophets remind Elisha of the anointed prophet’s ascension, we are brought to recollect that Jericho should not even exist – should not even be rebuilt (Joshua 6:26). Yet, here it stands, as a result of Israel’s rebellion. Not once, but thrice (after going to Gilgal and Bethel) are we to remember that the LORD has been faithful, but we have not.
6 Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.
7 Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan.
8 Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground.
From Bethel to Jericho to Jordan (Joshua 3-5), it looks like the Lord is walking Elijah in reverse through the history of Israel. Rather, this is a walk through the restoration of the ancient borderless gospel. The way out of Canaan through the Jordan, starting from the House of God. In doing so, Elijah the Baptist is preparing the way of Christ (Isaiah 54:2), expanding the House of God beyond the Jordan! Elijah is thus a walking example of Hebrew 13:13, walking through judgment (instead of entering judgment by the first entrance into Israel as under Joshua 3-5, it is symbolic of a removal of judgment in leaving Israel). So in Elijah’s ascension, we see Christ’s ascension in His incarnate body, taking Israel with Him to the right hand of the Father’s throne.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.”
10 And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.”
11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.
This is a grand picture, a reality of inheriting double portion of the Spirit on Elijah is that Elisha may receive divine sight of the chariots of Israel and it’s horsemen (2 Kings 6:17; also reminiscent of the picture of judgment in Isaiah 66).
13 And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.
14 Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.
When Elisha returns to Israel, he is the same Spirit-filled Elisha from before Elijah ascended into third heaven. Rather, the distinction serves as a foretelling of the distinction before and after Christ’s ascension (c.f. Acts 2) – the distinction that Christ has been glorified (John 7:39) and the Spirit has now been imparted in a grander measure to all flesh. Thus Elisha’s taking up of the cloak of Elijah is a picture of His garments of righteousness, his cloak of zeal, covering us (Isaiah 59:17, 61:10) – but also intimately a call back to 1 Kings 19:19-21 when Elijah chose Elisha as his disciple. This cloak is not of any inherent supernatural quality – rather, it is a picture of the righteousness given to Elijah, the same righteousness and power of the Spirit passing through to Elisha his disciple.
V.14 is a direct prophecy of Christ’s same words on the cross – lema lema sabachthani – “Why has the LORD forsaken me?” – “Where is the LORD?” The parting of the waters is a reminder of the parting of the waters in the exodus of Israel and in day two of creation, both pointing towards the stretching of the Son’s life on the cross. His appeal is therefore not to Elijah as if he was some deity-saint through whom we reach Mary, through whom we reach Jesus, through whom we reach the Father; rather, Elisha appeals directly to the LORD who had clearly caused Elijah’s ascension:
“He applied to Elijah’s God: Where is the Lord God of Elijah? He does not ask, “Where is Elijah?” as poring upon the loss of him, as if he could not be easy now that he was gone,–or as doubting of his happy state, as if, like the sons of the prophets here, he knew not what had become of him,–or as curiously enquiring concerning him, and the particular of that state he was removed to (no, that is a hidden life, it does not yet appear what we shall be),–nor as expecting help from him; no, Elijah is happy, but is neither omniscient nor omnipotent; but he asks, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? Now that Elijah was taken to heaven God had abundantly proved himself the God of Elijah; if he had not prepared for him that city, and done better for him there than ever he did for him in this world, he would have been ashamed to be called his God, Heb. xi. 16; Matt. xxvii. 31, 32. Now that Elijah was taken to heaven Elisha enquired, [1.] After God. When our creature-comforts are removed, we have a God to go to, that lives for ever. [2.] After The God of Elijah, the God that Elijah served, and honoured, and pleaded for, and adhered to when all Israel had deserted him. This honour is done to those who cleave to God in times of general apostasy, that God will be, in a peculiar manner, their God. “The God that owned, and protected, and provided for Elijah, and many ways honoured him, especially now at last, where is he? Lord, am not I promised Elijah’s spirit? Make good that promise.” The words which next follow in the original, Aph-his–even he, which we join to the following clause, when he also had smitten the waters, some make an answer to this question, Where is Elijah’s God? Etiam ille adhuc superest–“He is in being still, and nigh at hand. We have lost Elijah, but we have not lost Elijah’s God. He has not forsaken the earth; it is even he that is still with me.” Note, First, It is the duty and interest of the saints on earth to enquire after God, and apply to him as the Lord God of the saints that have gone before to heaven, the God of our fathers. Secondly, It is very comfortable to those who enquire of him; it is even he that is in his holy temple (Ps. xi. 4) and nigh to all who call upon him, Ps. cxlv. 18. Thirdly, Those that walk in the spirit and steps of their godly faithful predecessors shall certainly experience the same grace that they experienced; Elijah’s God will be Elisha’s too. The Lord God of the holy prophets is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and what will it avail us to have the mantles of those that are gone, their places, their books, if we have not their spirit, their God?” – Matthew Henry
15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.
16 And they said to him, “Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men. Please let them go and seek your master. It may be that the Spirit of the LORD has caught him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley.” And he said, “You shall not send.”
17 But when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, “Send.” They sent therefore fifty men. And for three days they sought him but did not find him.
18 And they came back to him while he was staying at Jericho, and he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?”
Elisha, knowing full well that the whirlwind is the same Spirit of the LORD (as is understood by the sons of the prophets in v.16), is ashamed that the sons of the prophets fail to see the significance of Elijah’s departure (v.16-17). What is the purpose in locating the ascended typological Son of God when even the sons of the prophets utter that the Spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha (v.15; c.f. Acts 1:11)? Of course they would not find Elijah in the mountains, however plausible the Spirit’s work may be in teleportation (Acts 8:39-40). This is because Elisha knew the event to foretell Christ’s ascension, and so also that Christ will return by way of the Spirit from the heavens. Elisha’s shame is therefore tied fundamentally into the prophets’ failure to perceive the prophecy of the entire event, a mirror showing that these fifty men sent by sons of prophets has no clearer vision of the ascended Christ than the groups of fifty men sent by the false king.
19 Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.”
20 He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him.
21 Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the LORD, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.”
22 So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.
One of the first acts which Elisha performs is, too prophetic – the healing of the bad water to bring in fresh water, the living waters of salvation. This salt is implicative of the salt covenant with God laid down in Leviticus 2:13 and Numbers 18:19, yet salt inherently is associated with judgment and death (Genesis 19:26; James 3:12) and purification (Exodus 30:35) though it be a seasoning leading to new life (Ezekiel 47:8-12). What Elisha preaches is therefore the gospel of the new bowl of fresh water, the new wine in new wineskins, the fulfillment of the law in Christ’s completion of his work on the cross. No longer shall Israel be under the judgment of legal salt covenant, under the judgment of salty rain-water, but look forward to the fulfillment of the legal salt covenant in the Son who received the judgment of rain leading us to a new creation age of fresh water lakes with life-bearing fruit (Revelation 22:2).
23 He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!”
24 And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.
25 From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.
Here is a repeat of a similar event (1 Samuel 25), like Nabal against David. Without knowing who he is, these small boys curse Elisha as the bald one – a negative connotation (Ezekiel 27:31; Isaiah 3:24; Lamentations 7:29). So Elisha curses these children in return, in the name of the LORD, pronouncing the judgment the forty-two boys deserve (c.f. Genesis 12:3; John 20:23; compared with 2 Kings 10:14) in the House of God (Bethel). From Bethel, he goes to Mount Carmel – the place of the destruction of Baal’s prophets, the name of the mount symbolically meaning circumcised lamb, a fruitful place; then he returns to Samaria, the watch-mountain and worship place of Baal (1 Kings 16:32), reminding us that the watcher (Daniel 4) is protecting and guiding the Church in a world of idolatry, awaiting the day that all may behold the Christ, the God of Elijah and Elisha.